Saturday, 23 April 2011

CD Review: Women And Children First, by Van Halen (1980)

Making it three albums in two years, Van Halen released Women And Children First one year after Van Halen II. Whether or not they were rushing to cash in on their snowballing success, the first noticeable signs of  malaise are evident.

Recorded in one take and with minimal overdubs, Women And Children First contains just the one outright classic with Fools, and several wasteful moments. Everybody Wants Some, Romeo Delight, Could This Be Magic? and In A Simple Rhyme, or a half the album, is merely good at best. This would prove to be the start of the nasty Van Halen habit of including too much iffy material on relatively short albums.

Was the band shovelling filler or quickly finding the limits of their creativity uncomfortably close to their starting point? Regardless, the end result was an almost unstoppable and continuous degradation in subsequent album quality.

On the positive side, Women And Children First does find Van Halen starting to experiment with some more complex structures, and topics slightly beyond their basic party obsession, without losing their spirit and personality. Fools is the best embodiment of the band getting it right as they march into new territory, a driving, spellbinding Eddie riff blasting off from a soulful start towards all-metal land, Van Halen finding joy in sheer volume and absolute power.

Opener And The Cradle Will Rock... is in the same mould but a just bit calmer and less adventurous. Loss Of Control again celebrates manic riffing, while Take Your Whiskey Home goes in the other direction with intro acoustic guitar work giving way to a bluesy metallic melody.

Women And Children First is a mixed but generally positive experience, and not without plenty of highlights. But the lingering doubt is introduced: once the naive wild partying of youth gets old, does the band that is all about fun have what it takes to forge a serious long-term career?


David Lee Roth - Vocals
Edward Van Halen - Guitar
Michael Anthony - Bass
Alex Van Halen - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. And The Cradle Will Rock... - 9
2. Everybody Wants Some!! - 7
3. Fools - 10
4. Romeo Delight - 7
5. Tora! Tora! - n/a (short track)
6. Loss Of Control - 8
7. Take Your Whiskey Home - 8
8. Could This Be Magic? - 7
9. In A Simple Rhyme - 6

Average: 7.75

Produced by Ted Templeman.
Engineered by Donn Landee.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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